The golden monkey is a species of Old World monkey found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, including four national parks: Mgahinga, in south-west Uganda; Volcanoes, in north-west Rwanda; and Virunga and Kahuzi-Biéga, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is restricted to highland forest, especially near bamboo.
This species was previously thought to be a subspecies of the blue monkey and the two are similar overall, but the golden monkey has a golden-orange patch on the upper flanks and back. Not much is known about the golden monkey's behavior. It lives in social groups of up to 30 individuals. Its diet consists mainly of young bamboo leaves, fruits, bamboo branch lets, bamboo shoots, invertebrates, flowers, and shrubs. However, the golden monkey is an opportunistic feeder and diet can easily be influenced by the availability of fruit. Due to the gradual destruction of their habitat and recent wars in their limited habitat, the golden monkey is listed as endangered on the IUCN and therefore called the endangered species.
Due to its diet the golden monkey prefers a habitat with abundant fruit and bamboo. The golden monkey will move in between areas depending on the season. During the season where ripe fruit is available they will remain in those areas. When the rainy season begins this causes bamboo shooting to occur and the golden monkeys are found more in these areas. Studies have found that if there is an area consisting of mixed fruit and bamboo, the monkeys will tend to frequent that area more than an area of just bamboo. One study reported that golden monkeys are most frequently seen in forests with bamboo, and this may suggest that this is one of the major preferences of the species.
The endangered golden monkey is endemic to the Albertine Rift, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a rare chance to track these striking creatures, high in the dense bamboo forests on the Gahinga trail. There is an estimated 3000-4000 individual in the Virunga area which 42-60 are habituated in Mgahinga.
The Park's varied medicinal plants and fascinating Ngarama Cave can be explored with a Batwa guide – this tribe of hunter-gatherers was the region's original inhabitants, and their ancient knowledge of the forest remains unrivalled. When you visit this important park, the guide will know which areas are most frequented by each species of animal.
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